Some movies are made just to put a spring in your step. With just the right amount of saccharine sweetness combined with the perfect amount of laughs and a good old obstacle for the protagonist to work their way around, it seems as though a feel-good movie is a piece of cake to make. However, Netflix’s recent release, Dumplin’, as poised as it may be to take the crown of a feel-good movie, may have slightly missed the mark.
Dumplin’ follows Willowdean, the daughter of a pageant queen and life long Dolly Parton fan. After the death of her beloved aunt, she decides to join the pageant her mum runs to prove the point that it says nowhere in the rules, ‘big girls need not apply’.
It takes a lot to build a film around the statuesque songs of Dolly Parton, but with this movie, it works. Not only does the message really correlate with exactly what Dolly stands for, but it makes the viewer genuinely warm and gooey on the inside.
Granted, it’s all a little bit twee. There isn’t an ounce of the movie that isn’t somehow touched by the presence of Dolly Parton, which although can be seen as a good thing to some, can also detract from the more serious moments in the movie. Yes, Dolly is a wonderful human with wonderful sayings, but when it boils down to drama, this movie seems a little bit predictable. It’s so sweet and so heartwarming that it’s inevitable any kink in the story arc will smooth itself out in a jiffy.
Despite the predictability of this movie, however, there are a few diamonds within. Rosie, played by Jennifer Aniston, plays the estranged, glamorous mother to perfection in the first half of the movie. She is distant, she is disapproving and she is judgemental in every move and decision her daughter makes. However, the second half of the movie loses that bite. Yes, she is meant to reconcile her relationship with her daughter, but it’s highly unlikely she would become the perfect parent within the space of about 10 minutes. However, unrealistic timing aside, Aniston plays this role really well – big hair and all.
Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald), is a godsend of a character. She is strong but still insecure. Determined, but still shaken. Gorgeous, but not in the way society wants her to be. For a teenage girl who might watch this movie, Willowdean is all the things she thinks she is, even if she isn’t any of them at all. She is a role model to teenage girls and shows them how to be authentically themselves; only with the help of a few drag queens, though.
Aside from the acting and the plot, the heart of this movie is what makes it the most impressive. Yes, it might not be the greatest movie ever made, but might it help someone? Might it push that girl who doesn’t fit in to do something she’s always been too scared to do? Might it change the perceptions of those who watch it? Maybe, and it’s a good step in the right direction. Movies like this are imperative in a society that places value on the way someone looks. Dumplin‘ is the complete antithesis of this – she stands for being yourself, and only that.
With this in mind, it’s easy to get lost in the poetic beauty of this movie. By no means is it a masterpiece – it’s predictable and badly acted in certain parts and unbelievably cheesy. But it doesn’t half make you want to smile.
When you watch this movie, whether it be the ridiculously catchy tunes of Ms Parton, the wholesomeness of teenage friendship, or the butterflies of a first kiss, it will make you smile. There is something about it – something that only happens with a few movies – where the last 20 minutes will make your face ache with joy. It’s about women being kind to other women – there is no catty pageant rivalry, no bad sportsmanship. It’s a model of how women should treat each other and it’s a very good one at that.
So, if you fancy a little pick-me-up or a good, wholehearted shot of happiness, give Dumplin’ a watch. At the end of the day, who’d be disappointed in a two-hour tribute to Dolly Parton?
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2